Jerome K. Jerome.

The Master of Mrs. Chilvers online

. (page 5 of 6)
Online LibraryJerome K. JeromeThe Master of Mrs. Chilvers → online text (page 5 of 6)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

they do anything?

JAWBONES. (_He has bought a new hat_; _has also brought back the
remains_. _He shakes his head_.) No good for anything else but a

SIGSBY. (_With a grunt he snatches the thing and flings it into a
corner_. _Tries on the new one_.)

JAWBONES. ’Ow’s it feel?

(SIGSBY, _with the help of_ JAWBONES, _attends to his appearance_.)

LAMB. (_To_ ST. HERBERT.) No use talking to her, I suppose?

ST. HERBERT. (_Shrugs his shoulders_.) She’ll do what she imagines to
be her duty. Women are so uncivilised.

(_A burst of cheering is heard_. _A shrill male voice_: “_Three cheers
for Winston Churchill_!” _It is followed by an explosion of yells_.)

ST. HERBERT. Who’s that?

LAMB. (_He has opened the window_.) Phoebe Mogton!

SIGSBY. What a family!

(JANET _has entered_.)

JANET. Is that Mrs. Chilvers? (_To_ LAMB _and_ ST. HERBERT.) Good

ST. HERBERT. Good evening.

LAMB. No; it’s her sister.

JANET. I wonder she doesn’t come.

SIGSBY. What are the latest figures? Do you know?

(PHOEBE _enters_.)

JANET. I forget the numbers. Mrs. Chilvers is forty ahead.

PHOEBE. Forty ahead! (_To_ JANET.) Did you order the band?

LAMB. (_To_ SIGSBY.) The Dock division was against him to a man; that
Shipping Bill has upset them.

JANET. No. I didn’t think we should want the band.

PHOEBE. Not want it! My dear girl—

JANET. Perhaps Lady Mogton has ordered it, I’ll ask her.

(_She goes out_.)

SIGSBY. Hadn’t you better “Wait and see”? It isn’t over yet.

PHOEBE. We may as well have it! It can play the Dead March in “Saul” if
you win. (_She laughs_.)

SIGSBY. (_Grunts_. _To_ LAMB.) Are you coming?

(_He goes out_.)

LAMB. Yes. (_To_ ST. HERBERT.) Are you coming?

ST. HERBERT. Hardly worth while; nearly over, isn’t it?

LAMB. It generally takes an hour and a half. (_He looks at his watch_.)
Another forty minutes. Perhaps less.

(_He goes out_.)

PHOEBE. I do love to make him ratty. Wish it wasn’t poor old Geoff we
were fighting.

ST. HERBERT. When I marry, it will be the womanly woman.

PHOEBE. No chance for me then?

ST. HERBERT. I don’t say that. I can see you taking your political
opinions from your husband, and thinking them your own.

PHOEBE. Good heavens!

ST. HERBERT. The brainy woman will think for herself. And then I
foresee some lively breakfast tables.

PHOEBE. Humph! No fear, I suppose, of a man taking his views from his
wife and thinking them his own?

ST. HERBERT. That may be the solution. The brainy woman will have to
marry the manly man.

(GINGER _enters_.)

JAWBONES. (_He is on his knees blowing the fire_. _In a low growl_.)
Shut the door!

GINGER. Can’t till I’m inside, can I? (_Shuts it_.) Where’s Lady

JAWBONES. I don’t know.

PHOEBE. What do you want her for?

GINGER. Only to tell her that I can’t find Chilvers.

PHOEBE. Isn’t she here?

GINGER. Not unless she’s come while I’ve been out.

(JANET _enters_.)

JANET. Oh, Lady Mogton—

PHOEBE. (_Interrupting her_.) Isn’t Annys here?

JANET. No. (_To_ GINGER.) Haven’t you found her?

GINGER. (_Shakes her head_.) Been everywhere I could think of.

PHOEBE. (_To herself_.) She couldn’t have gone home? Is there a
telephone here?

JANET. The room’s locked up.

JAWBONES. There’s one at 118, High Street. Shall I go, miss?

PHOEBE. No, thanks. I’ll go myself. Oh, what about the band?

JANET. Lady Mogton says she’d like it. If it isn’t too tired.

GINGER. It’s at Sell’s Coffee-’ouse in Piggott Street. I ’eard them

PHOEBE. Good. I shan’t be more than a few minutes.

ST. HERBERT. I’ll come with you, if I may? I’ve got some news that may
be of use to you.

PHOEBE. Do. (_To_ GINGER.) Stop here, I may want you.

(PHOEBE _and_ ST. HERBERT _go out_.)

JANET. How was Mrs. Chilvers seeming this afternoon?

GINGER. Never ’eard ’er speak better, miss.

JANET. Did you stop to the end?

GINGER. Not quite. Mrs. Spender wanted some shopping done.

(JANET _goes out_.)

GINGER. Can I ’elp yer?

JAWBONES. Yer might hold the piper while I blow.

(_The fire begins to burn_.)

GINGER. It’s getting brighter.

JAWBONES. That’s caught it.

GINGER. Wonderful what a little coaxing will do.

JAWBONES. (_He is still squatting on his heels_, _folding up the paper_.
_He looks up_.) Ain’t yer ever thought of that, instead of worrying
about the vote?

GINGER. (_She moves away_.) You don’t understand us wimmin.

JAWBONES. (_He has risen_. _He pauses in his folding of the paper_.)
Don’t say that.

GINGER. Why should we coax yer—for our rights?

JAWBONES. Because it’s the easiest way of getting ’em.

GINGER. (_She has become oratorical_.) Our appeal is not to man (_with
upraised hand_) but to Justice!

JAWBONES. Oh! And what does the lidy say?

GINGER. (_Descending_.) ’Ow do yer mean?

JAWBONES. To your appeal. Is she goin’ to give ’em to yer? You tike my
tip: if yer in a ’urry, you get a bit on account—from Man. ’Ere. (_He
dives into his pocket_, _produces_, _wrapped up in tissue paper_, _a
ring_, _which he exhibits to her_.) That’s a bit more in your line.

GINGER. (_Her eyes sparkle_. _She takes the ring in her hand_. _Then
problems come to her_.) Why do yer want me, William?

JAWBONES. Because, in spite of all, I love yer.

GINGER. (_She looks into the future_.) What will I be? A general
servant, without wages.

JAWBONES. The question, as it seems to me, is, which of us two is the
biggest fool? Instead of thirty bob a week in my pocket to spend as I
like—guess I’ll ’ave to be content with three ’alf-crowns.

GINGER. Seven an’ six! Rather a lot, Bill, out o’ thirty bob. Don’t
leave much for me an’ the children.

JAWBONES. I shall ’ave to get my dinners.

GINGER. I could mike yer somethin’ tasty to tike with yer. Then with,
say—three shillings—

JAWBONES. ’Ere—(_He is on the point of snatching back the ring_. _He
encounters her eyes_. _There is a moment’s battle_. _The Eternal
Feminine conquers_.) Will yer always look as sweet as yer do now?

GINGER. Always, Bill. So long as yer good to me!

(_She slips the ring over her finger_, _still with her eyes drawing
him_. _He catches her to him in fierce passion_, _kisses her_.)

(_A loud shrill female cheer comes from the crowd_. _The cheer is
renewed and renewed_.)

JAWBONES. (_He breaks away and goes to the window_.) ’Ullo! What are
they shoutin’ about now? (_He looks out_.) It’s the Donah!

GINGER. Mrs. Chilvers?

JAWBONES. Yus. Better not get wearin’ it—may shock their feelings.

GINGER. (_She gazes rapturously at the ring as she draws it off_.) It
is a beauty! I do love yer, Bill.

(_There enter_ ANNYS _and_ ELIZABETH. ANNYS _is excited_; _she is
laughing and talking_.)

ANNYS. (_Laughing while she rearranges her hat and hair_.) A little
embarrassing. That red-haired girl—she carried me right up the steps. I
was afraid she would—

(JAWBONES _has been quick enough to swing a chair into place just in
time to receive her_.)

(_She recovers herself_.) Thank you.

ELIZABETH. (_She hands_ ANNYS _a smelling-bottle_. _To_ JAWBONES.)
Open the window a few inches.

(_He does so_. _Some woman_, _much interrupted_, _is making a

(JANET _opens the door a little way and looks in_.)

JANET. Oh, it is you! I am glad!

(_She goes out again_.)

ELIZABETH. Are the others all here?

GINGER. ’Er ladyship is watching the counting. Miss Phoebe ’as just
gone out—

(PHOEBE _enters_.)

Oh, ’ere she is.

PHOEBE. Hullo! (_She is taking off her things_.) Wherever have you
been? We’ve been scouring the neighbourhood—

(LADY MOGTON _enters_, _followed by_ JANET.)

I say, you’re looking jolly chippy.

ELIZABETH. We had an extra enthusiastic meeting. She spoke for rather a
long time. I made her come home with me and lie down. I think she is
all right now.

LADY MOGTON. Would you like to see a doctor?

PHOEBE. There is a very good man close here. (_She turns to_ JAWBONES,
_who is still near the window_.) Gordon—

ANNYS. (_Interrupting_.) No. Please don’t. I am quite all right. I
hate strange doctors.

PHOEBE. Well, let me send for Whitby; he could be here in twenty

ANNYS. I wish you would all leave me alone. There’s absolutely nothing
to fuss about whatever. We pampered women—we can’t breathe the same air
that ordinary mortals have to. We ought to be ashamed of ourselves.

PHOEBE. (_To herself_.) Obstinate pig.

(_She catches_ JAWBONES’ _eye_; _unnoticed by the others_, _she takes
him aside_. _They whisper_.)

ANNYS. How is it going?

LADY MOGTON. You must be prepared for winning. (_She puts again the
question that_ ANNYS _has frequently been asked to answer during the last
few days_.) What are you going to do?

(MRS. MOUNTCALM-VILLIERS _enters_, _as usual in a flutter of


(_They brush her back into silence_. ELIZABETH _takes charge of her_.)

ANNYS. (_She has risen_.) You think it wise tactics, to make it
impossible for Geoffrey to be anything else in the future but our enemy?

LADY MOGTON. (_Contemptuously_.) You are thinking of him, and not of
the cause.

ANNYS. And if I were! Haven’t I made sacrifice enough?—more than any of
you will ever know. Ay—and would make more, if I felt it was demanded of
me. I don’t! (_Her burst of anger is finished_. _She turns_,
_smiling_.) I’m much more cunning than you think. There will be other
elections we shall want to fight. With the Under-Secretary for Home
Affairs in sympathy with us, the Government will find it difficult to
interfere. Don’t you see how clever I am?

(JAWBONES, _having received his instructions from_ PHOEBE, _has slipped
out unobserved_. _He has beckoned to_ GINGER; _she has followed him_.
PHOEBE _has joined the group_.)

MRS. MOUNTCALM-VILLIERS. There’s something in that.

JANET. Is Mr. Chilvers still in sympathy with us?

PHOEBE. Of course he is. A bit rubbed up the wrong way just at present;
that’s our fault. When Annys goes down, early next mouth, to fight the
Exchange Division of Manchester, we shall have him with us.

(_A moment_.)

LADY MOGTON. Where do you get that from?

PHOEBE. From St. Herbert. The present member is his cousin. They say
he can’t live more than a week.

MRS. MOUNTCALM-VILLIERS. It really seems like Providence.

ANNYS. (_Has taken the opportunity of giving_ PHOEBE _a grateful squeeze
of the hand_.)

LADY MOGTON. You will fight Manchester?

ANNYS. Yes. (_Laughs_.) And make myself a public nuisance if I win.

LADY MOGTON. Well, must be content with that, I suppose. Better not
come in; the room’s rather crowded. I’ll keep you informed how things
are going.

(_She goes out_, _followed by_ JANET.)

MRS. MOUNTCALM-VILLIERS. I’ll stay with you, dear.

PHOEBE. I want you to come and be photographed for the Daily Mirror.
The man’s waiting downstairs.

ELIZABETH. I’ll stop with Annys.

MRS. MOUNTCALM-VILLIERS. I’m not quite sure, you know, that I take well
by flashlight.

PHOEBE. You wait till you’ve seen mamma! We must have you. They want
you for the centre of the page.

MRS. MOUNTCALM-VILLIERS. Well, if it’s really—

PHOEBE. (_To the others_.) Shall see you again. (_She winks_. _Then
to_ MRS. MOUNTCALM-VILLIERS.) We mustn’t keep them waiting. They are
giving us a whole page.

(PHOEBE _takes_ MRS. MOUNTCALM-VILLIERS _out_. ELIZABETH _has followed
to the door_; _she closes it_. ANNYS _has reseated herself_, _facing
the fire_.)

ELIZABETH. When did you see your husband last?

ANNYS. Not since—Tuesday, wasn’t it, that we went round to his rooms.

ELIZABETH. I’m thinking about Manchester. What was it he said to you?

ANNYS. Oh, we were, both of us, a little over-excited, I suppose. He
has—(_she hesitates_, _finally answers_)—he has always been so eager for

ELIZABETH. Yes. So many men are; not having to bear the pain and
inconvenience themselves.

ANNYS. Oh, well, they have to provide for them when they do come.
That’s fair enough division, I su— (_Suddenly she turns fiercely_.) Why
do you talk like that? As if we women were cowards. Do you think if God
sent me a child I should grudge Him the price!

ELIZABETH. Do you want Him to?

ANNYS. I don’t know; prayed Him to, once.

ELIZABETH. (_She lays her hand upon her_.) It isn’t a few more mothers
that the world has need of. It is the women whom God has appointed—to
whom He has given freedom, that they may champion the cause of the
mothers, helpless by reason of their motherhood.

(_A moment_. GEOFFREY _enters_.)

GEOFFREY. Good evening.

ANNYS. (_Rises_; _a smile struggles for possession_. _But he only
shakes hands_, _and it dies away_.)

ELIZABETH. Good evening.

(_They shake hands_.)

GEOFFREY. You are not interested in the counting?

ANNYS. The room is rather crowded. Mamma thought I would be better out
here. How have you been?

GEOFFREY. Oh, all right. It’s going to be a very near thing, they tell

ANNYS. Yes, I shall be glad when it’s over.

GEOFFREY. It’s always a trying time. What are you going to do, if you

(LADY MOGTON _looks in_.)

LADY MOGTON. (_Seeing_ GEOFFREY.) Oh, good evening.

GEOFFREY. Good evening.

LADY MOGTON. Chilvers, 2,960—Annys Chilvers, 2,874.

(_She disappears—closes door_.)

ANNYS. Perhaps I’m not going to win. (_She goes to him_, _smiling_.) I
hope you’ll win. I would so much rather you won.

GEOFFREY. Very kind of you. I’m afraid that won’t make it a certainty.

ANNYS. (_His answer has hardened her again_.) How can I? It would not
be fair. Without your consent I should never have entered upon it. It
was understood that the seat, in any case, would be yours.

GEOFFREY. I would rather you considered yourself quite free. In warfare
it doesn’t pay to be “fair” to one’s enemy.

ANNYS. (_Still hardening_.) Besides, there is no need. There will be
other opportunities. I can contest some other constituency. If I win,
claim the seat for that.

(_A moment_.)

GEOFFREY. So this is only the beginning? You have decided to devote
yourself to a political career?

ANNYS. Why not?

GEOFFREY. If I were to ask you to abandon it, to come back to your place
at my side—helping me, strengthening me?

ANNYS. You mean you would have me abandon my own task—merge myself in

GEOFFREY. Be my wife.

ANNYS. It would not be right. I, too, have my work.

GEOFFREY. If it takes you away from me?

ANNYS. Why need it take me away from you? Why cannot we work together
for common ends, each in our own way?

GEOFFREY. We talked like that before we tried it. Marriage is not a
partnership; it is a leadership.

ANNYS. (_She looks at him_.) You mean—an ownership.

GEOFFREY. Perhaps you’re right. I didn’t make it. I’m only—beginning
to understand it.

ANNYS. And I too. It is not what I want.

GEOFFREY. You mean its duties have become irksome to you.

ANNYS. I mean I want to be the judge myself of what are my duties.

GEOFFREY. I no longer count. You will go your way without me?

ANNYS. I must go the way I think right.

GEOFFREY. (_He flings away_.) If you win to-night you will do well to
make the most of it. Take my advice and claim the seat.

ANNYS. (_Looks at him puzzled_.)


GEOFFREY. Because (_with a short_, _ugly laugh_) the Lord only knows
when you’ll get another opportunity.

ELIZABETH. You are going to stop us?

GEOFFREY. To stop women from going to the poll. The Bill will be
introduced on Monday. Carried through all its stages the same week.

ELIZABETH. You think it will pass?

GEOFFREY. The Whips assure me that it will.

ANNYS. But they cannot, they dare not, without your assent. The— (_The
light breaks in upon her_.) Who is bringing it in?


ANNYS. (_Is going to speak_.)

GEOFFREY. (_He stops her_.) Oh, I’m prepared for all that—ridicule,
abuse. “Chilvers’s Bill for the Better Regulation of Mrs. Chilvers,”
they’ll call it. I can hear their laughter. Yours won’t be among it.

ANNYS. But, Geoffrey! What is the meaning? Merely to spite me, are you
going to betray a cause that you have professed belief in—that you have
fought for?

GEOFFREY. Yes—if it is going to take you away from me. I want you. No,
I don’t want a friend—“a fellow-worker”—some interesting rival in well
doing. I can get all that outside my home. I want a wife. I want the
woman I love to belong to me—to be mine. I am not troubling about being
up to date; I’m talking what I feel—what every male creature must have
felt since the protoplasmic cell developed instincts. I want a woman to
love—a woman to work for—a woman to fight for—a woman to be a slave to.
But mine—mine, and nothing else. All the rest (_he makes a gesture_) is

(_He closes the window_, _shutting out the hubbub of the crowd_.)

ANNYS. (_A strange_, _new light has stolen in_. _She is bewildered_,
_groping_.) But—all this is new between us. You have not talked like
this for—not since— We were just good friends—comrades.

GEOFFREY. And might have remained so, God knows! I suppose we’re made
like that. So long as there was no danger passion slept. I cannot
explain it. I only know that now, beside the thought of losing you, all
else in the world seems meaningless. The Woman’s Movement! (_He makes a
gesture of contempt_.) Men have wrecked kingdoms for a woman before
now—and will again. I want you! (_He comes to her_.) Won’t you come
back to me, that we may build up the home we used to dream of? Wasn’t
the old love good? What has this new love to give you? Work that man
can do better. The cause of the women—the children! Has woman loved
woman better than man? Will the world be better for the children, man
and woman contending? Come back to me. Help me. Help me to fight for
all good women. Teach me how I may make the world better—for our

ANNYS. (_The light is in her eyes_. _She stands a moment_. _Her hands
are going out to him_.)

ELIZABETH. (_She comes between them_.) Yes, go to him. He will be very
good to you. Good men are kind to women, kind even to their dogs. You
will be among the pampered few! You will be happy. And the others!
What does it matter?

(_They draw apart_. _She stands between them_, _the incarnation of the
spirit of sex war_.)

The women that have not kind owners—the dogs that have not kind
masters—the dumb women, chained to their endless, unpaid drudgery! Let
them be content. What are they but man’s chattel? To be honoured if it
pleases him, or to be cast into the dust. Man’s pauper! Bound by his
laws, subject to his whim; her every hope, her every aspiration, owed to
his charity. She toils for him without ceasing: it should be her
“pleasure.” She bears him children, when he chooses to desire them.
They are his to do as he will by. Why seek to change it? Our man is
kind. What have they to do with us: the women beaten, driven,
overtasked—the women without hope or joy, the livers of grey lives that
men may laugh and spend—the women degraded lower than the beasts to
pander to the beast in man—the women outraged and abandoned, bearing to
the grave the burden of man’s lust? Let them go their way. They are but
our sisters of sorrow. And we who could help them—we to whom God has
given the weapons: the brain, and the courage—we make answer: “I have
married a husband, and I cannot come.”

(_A silence_.)

GEOFFREY. Well, you have heard. (_He makes a gesture_.) What is your

ANNYS. (_She comes to him_.) Don’t you love me enough to humour me a
little—to put up with my vexing ways? I so want to help, to feel I am
doing just a little, to make the world kinder. I know you can do it
better, but I want so to be “in it.” (_She laughs_.) Let us forget all
this. Wake up to-morrow morning with fresh hearts. You will be Member
for East Poplar. And then you shall help me to win Manchester. (_She
puts her hands upon his breast_: _she would have him take her in his
arms_.) I am not strong enough to fight alone.

GEOFFREY. I want you. Let Manchester find some one else.

ANNYS. (_She draws away from him_.) And if I cannot—will not?

GEOFFREY. I bring in my Bill on Monday. We’ll be quite frank about it.
That is my price—you. I want you!

ANNYS. You mean it comes to that: a whole cause dependent on a man and a

GEOFFREY. Yes, that is how the world is built. On each man and woman.
“How does it shape my life, my hopes?” So will each make answer.

(LADY MOGTON _enters_. _She stands silent_.)

ELIZABETH. Is it over?

LADY MOGTON. Annys Chilvers, 3,604—Geoffrey Chilvers, 3,590.

(JANET _enters_.)

JANET. (_She rushes to_ ANNYS, _embraces her_.) You’ve won, you’ve won!
(_She flies to the window_, _opens it_, _and goes out on to the

(PHOEBE _enters_, _followed by_ MRS. MOUNTCALM-VILLIERS.)

PHOEBE. Is it true?

LADY MOGTON. Pretty close. Majority of 14.



(JANET _by this time has announced the figures_. _There is heard a
great burst of cheering_, _renewed again and again_.)

JANET. (_Re-entering_.) They want you! They want you!

(_Mingled with the cheering come cries of_ “_Speech_! _Speech_!”)

LADY MOGTON. You must say something.

(_The band strikes up_ “_The Conquering Hero_.” _The women crowd
round_ ANNYS, _congratulating her_. GEOFFREY _stands apart_.)

PHOEBE. (_Screaming above the din_.) Put on your cloak.

JANET. (_Rushes and gets it_.)

(_They wrap it round her_.)

(ANNYS _goes out on to the balcony_, _followed by the other women_.
ELIZABETH, _going last_, _fires a parting smile of triumph at_

(_A renewed burst of cheering announces their arrival on the balcony_.
_The crowd bursts into_ “_For She’s a Jolly Good Fellow_”—_the band_,
_making a quick change_, _joins in_. GEOFFREY _remains centre_.)

(JAWBONES _enters unobserved_. _The singing ends with three cheers_.
ANNYS _is speaking_. GEOFFREY _turns and sees_ JAWBONES.)

GEOFFREY. (_With a smile_.) Give me down my coat, will you?

JAWBONES. (_He is sympathetic_. _He helps him on with it_.) Shall I
get you a cab, sir?

GEOFFREY. No, thanks. I’ll pick one up. (_He goes towards the door_,
_then stops_.) Is there any other way out—not through the main entrance?

JAWBONES. Yes, sir. There’s a side door opening on Woodstock Road.
I’ll show it you.

GEOFFREY. Thanks. (_He follows_ JAWBONES _out_.)

(_A burst of cheering comes from the crowd_.)



SCENE:—_Russell Square_. _The morning-room_ (_on the ground floor_). _A
small_, _cheerful room_, _furnished in Chippendale_, _white panelled_,
_with Adams fireplace in which a bright fire is burning_. _Two deep
easy-chairs are before the fire_. _The window-curtains of red damask are
drawn_. _An oval table occupies the centre of the room_. _The door at
back opens upon the hall_. _Only one light burns_, _an electric lamp on
a table just above the fire_.


1 2 3 5

Online LibraryJerome K. JeromeThe Master of Mrs. Chilvers → online text (page 5 of 6)